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Sunday, January 16, 2005

Nokia Eviscerates Multimedia R&D

"Nokia is reining in R&D, with the axe falling hardest on its 3,000-strong multimedia division founded a year ago," reports Andrew Orlowski in The Register. "In a statement, Nokia's multimedia chief Anssi Vanjoki said that while imaging was doing well, 'games, music and media are still in a more early development phase'. The division is responsible for the N-Gage games console."

Responsible for the N-Gage? Well, I guess that explains things, doesn't it?

I mean, really, how utterly idiotic can a company be? At the very time Microsoft is forming a beachhead in handheld media - announcing its incipient flat-rate media download service for handheld devices - Nokia is cutting back on multimedia R&D.

Rrecently I read an interview, given to the Register this past July, with Colly Myers, former CEO of Symbian and the primary creator of the OS. This interview was actually quite revealing, in that it showed the kind of thinking that lay behind the Symbian smartphone. Thinking that discounts any real possibility of the converged device being anything more than a wrong-headed effort, or maybe a marketing gimmick.

On putting a web browser on the phone, Myers had this to say:

You could have a 640 by 480 screen and have the same content available even if you messed about with it but it's still not the right metaphor for a phone. You want a lot of things you can get on the Internet on your phone translated as a service, piece by piece.

And on the smartphone concept, this:

You know, I used to think you could convert a lot of things to work well on the phone, but I'm older and wiser, I think. For example, making a phone a browser and an mp3 player. Each of those things are a lesser thing and you end up with what we call a 'spork' - you end up with a spoon and a fork. It's no good as a spoon and no good as a fork, but it's got both things.

The reality is that trying to push everything into everything just doesn't make sense. We'll see an unfolding of more things like the iPod - focused at a particular consumer solution.

So much for the smartphone. From the father of Symbian.

Sometimes companies do well and dominate a market because they are full of bright, creative people and are well run (IBM, for example); sometimes, companies do well and dominate a market because they're aggressive and clever about business (Microsoft). Every once in awhile, a company comes along that grabs the lion's share of market and appears to be destined for great things - solely on account of having gotten there before anyone else. Competitors play catch up, and, having caught up, leave the pioneer in the dust. This, I think, will be the case with Symbian. And maybe with Nokia, as well, since Symbian is such a big part of who they are.

I always hate it when someone or some company snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

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